Monday, February 12, 2018


Title:  Gnomon
Author:  Nick Harkaway
Publication Information:  Knopf. 2018. 688 pages.
ISBN:  1524732087 / 978-1524732080

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "'The death of a suspect in custody,' says Inspector Neith of the Witness, 'is a very serious matter.'"

Favorite Quote:  "Little by little, though, the sense of crisis is fading, as the twin businesses of living and deciding a way forward takes precedence over the assignment of historical blame."

Gnomon. With a title like that, my first step is to look up the word. Is it a real word or a made up names? Turns out, the word "gnomon" comes from Greek and is the name for the portion of a sundial that creates a shadow. Knowing that, the cover takes on a different meaning. The word has taken on different interpretations in mathematics with implications of angles, shapes, and relationships between shapes. In particular, a geometrical definition was the part of a parallelogram that remains after a similar parallelogram has been taken away from one of its corners.

A Greek mathematical reference. What Gnomon translates to in the story is part of the mystery of this book. Now, I am intrigued.

The book description presents a dystopian world in which everything is monitored, in the name of maintaining transparency, safety, and peace. Every citizen, every thought, and every memory. Periodically, random citizens are subject to testing. It is in fact advised as a health enhancing exercise. An official "clearing of your head" if you will.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this approach. The story begins when a dissendent, Diana Hunter dies while in custody of the System. That never happens until, of course, it does. It appears the System is not as perfect as it seems.

Inspector Mielikki Neith is assigned to investigate. With a name like that, I look it up. "Mielikki" in Finnish mythology is the goddess of the hunt, an appropriate epithet. "Neith" is the name of an Egyptian goddess, also known as the creator. Inspector Neith is literally given Diana Hunter's mind to study. What she finds is the adventure of this book.

A dystopian world. A mystery. An investigation. References to mythology. Now, I am even more intrigued.

I don't know if the connections are intended or it's my imagination. It doesn't matter because I jump in, ready for a story of adventure for the book description lists Athens, Carthage, London, and journeys within the mind and memories of the characters. I love the premise the book establishes.

This is where, unfortunately, I get stuck. The expression goes that I cannot see the forest for the trees. That about sums up my reaction to this book. I love the premise. However, the writing - the words, the language, the constructions - seems to be at the forefront of this book. I find myself more focused on how something is said rather than on what is being said. In other words, the writing takes over the reading experience rather than the story. The entire book - regardless of the narrator - has a sameness of tone and language making it even harder.

What makes this an even bigger challenge is the length of the book. At almost 700 pages, the book calls for a compelling story to hold me to the story. The compelling premise is there, but the telling of the story does not live up to the premise. I pull myself back to the story time and again, but it is difficult to do so for that long a period of time. The story is lost in the words.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment